By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) When the feds conduct a drug bust and find tons of drugs, cash, guns, cars, and other assets, the government is able to seize all of it. That's because the U.S. government has forfeiture laws that give federal law enforcement the authority to take these items, if it is suspected that they came into this wealth through illegal transactions, like drug dealing and money laundering.
Agents are meticulous about this evidence. They photograph it, count the money in front of others, bag the items, catalogue each find, and write receipts that track the exact date and time one agent comes into custody of the evidence.
A legal process happens for the forfeiture, and some of the items are auctioned off, the proceeds of which become government revenue.
Guam doesn't have a forfeiture law, though. There is no authority for Guam Police Officers to seize private property and to keep it or auction it.
Matter of fact, prior to former Gov. Eddie Calvo signing Executive Order No. 2017-01, which created the now-defunct Mandana Drug Task Force, Guam Police Officers didn't have the authority to take anything aside from contraband to be used as evidence against criminal defendants.
Then the cowboys from Mandana happened; and all of a sudden, we read through the news that sums of money, jewelry, vehicles, and even the contents of safe deposit boxes are confiscated from police raids.
Starting in 2017, Mandana Drug Task Force officers began applying for warrants to enter homes and conduct their raids. A unique provision in the warrants Superior Court judges signed - one that is not found in any other kind of local warrant because of the absence of local forfeiture laws - is this:
"Pursuant to 8 G.C.A. 35.40 the court authorizes the transfer of any property seized in connection with this warrant to any federal law enforcement agency participating in this investigation for the purposes of testing and storage, at the discretion of the officers involved."
Odd. Was the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency participating in every Mandana Drug Task Force raid and investigation? Were DEA officers present at every one of these, where cash and drugs were seized?
After testing, are the drugs properly destroyed and disposed? Who manages the inventory of the evidence locker, where these drugs are stored?
As for the cash seized, is GovGuam just donating it to the federal government?
This is the start of the investigation we promised the people of Guam, the victims of the Mandana Drug Task Force, and those former task force agents themselves. We promised to expose the truth of what they did. And from this one very odd sentence found only in the warrants issued to Mandana Drug Task Force members that has led to countless violations of Constitutional rights, we found the evidence we've been looking for.
This investigative report into what Mandana did over their two year reign of terror is significant, not just for the people they stole from - those whom some may judge because of their drug dealing ... but to innocent citizens who've been victimized by this scheme, and to everyone whose right against illegal search and seizure must never again be jeopardized.
You see, with Superior Court judges signing warrants that allow Guam Police Officers to enter your home and take your belongings without there being any local authority to seize assets outside of evidence of crimes, there is nothing but conscience that stops a team of misfit cops from targeting your home, planting a pipe, saying you're a drug dealer, and then stealing your cash, jewelry, firearms, and cars.
This is the start of our long-promised investigation into the former Mandana Drug Task Force and the destruction they brought wherever they went.
They better watch out. They better not cry. Because Santa Claus found their dirty little secrets. Merry Christmas, Mandana.